Over 100 years since it first opened (1914), the Panama Canal has been enlarged. There are now 2 new entrances to the long haul across the continent. The route is 50 miles, but huge ships could not fit into the locks.
Although behind schedule, the new locks have opened and are taking larger ships. The very first passenger ship through was Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder. It went in a southbound direction from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
For years, container ships grew to the point that they could not fit the locks! The Expanded Canal allows for vessels up to 1,200 feet long and so called Panamax ships can now fit in. It is wider than the old locks also. This means the gigantic Harmony of the Seas COULD fit the locks, but it sits too high to go under the new Bridge of the Americas. Good planning guys.
By October 1, it’s estimated that over 200 cruise ships will go through the new locks. The “OLD locks” are operating in parallel with the new ones. Once the entrance locks are navigated, the ships will sail the large Gatum Lake. To accommodate larger ships, the canal at the Culebra Cut was also enlarged.
Manual Noriega was held in a prison on the canal. He just died last week, ending a major era in Panamanian history. Panama has controlled and operated the Canal since President Carter turned it over to them. The US can still get navy ships thru it should a crisis arrive. Not all can fit – even with the new canal entrances.
Tune in regularly for more darn interesting stories about the cruise industry. And sail for free! We can show you how.